BOTSWANA: Govt defends mineral exploration in reserve
Activists claim the bushmen are being removed to make way for mining
johannesburg, 24 February 2003 (IRIN) - The government of Botswana has responded angrily to the latest accusations that it was removing Bushmen from their ancestral lands in order to mine for diamonds.
Last week IRIN reported that lobby group Survival International had linked the removal of the "indigenous communities" from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) with the recent financing of a diamond exploration concession in the CKGR.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is part of the World Bank, recently financed Kalahari Diamonds Limited to the tune of US $2 million. Kalahari Diamonds Limited has a licence to explore for diamonds in Botswana, including the CKGR.
The government told IRIN that the latest claims were "yet another desperate attempt by Survival International to misinform, mislead and deceive unsuspecting international public opinion about the government of Botswana's policy towards the development needs of the Basarwa (Bushmen) and in particular, those of the Kgalagadi".
"There is no connection between the relocation exercise in the CKGR and mineral exploration in that area," said a statement from CS Maribe, Assistant Director Information and Research Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in reply to questions from IRIN.
The government believed there was a campaign "to harm Botswana's diamond industry which is the main source of the country's prosperity and the means with which the government provides for the welfare and development needs of all Botswana citizens, including Basarwa".
Should a commercially viable deposit be discovered in the CKGR, "the merits and demerits of mining it will be assessed".
Maribe said it had been "clearly stated that the relocation exercise is intended to alleviate poverty within, and indeed empower the Basarwa communities, as well as to avoid land use conflicts in the CKGR". Allowing for permanent settlements, the growing of crops and rearing of livestock inside the game reserve would not be compatible with the government's aims to preserve wildlife resources within the CKGR.
Furthermore, there had never been any forceful relocation of the Basarwa or Bakgalagadi Bushmen from the reserve.
"The relocation was done in consultation with the people residing in the game reserve, NGOs and other interested parties. The people who relocated from the game reserve consented to the relocation and even selected the areas where they wished to resettle. Only 17 people out of a total of 689 people who resided inside the CKGR in 2001, remain in the game reserve and government is continuing with efforts to persuade them to relocate," the statement added.
There was precedent for relocations of communities from protected areas in the country, "where local communities (Basarwa and non Basarwa) conducting settled agricultural activities were relocated to adjacent areas and compensated accordingly".
One such example was the "Mababe community which was relocated from the Moremi Game Reserve to an area adjacent the game reserve and are now effectively utilising and benefiting from the resources of the game reserve in a sustainable manner".
"Lastly, you may also wish to note that the government of Botswana regards all Botswana citizens as indigenous (including Basarwa), with all people having the same rights with regard to development," the statement concluded.